Report: Downtown prospers while Chicago’s black, Latino communities slide

Report: Downtown prospers while Chicago’s black, Latino communities slide
Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative answers questions during a press conference in City Hall on Tuesday. Grassroots Collaborative released a report, "Downtown Prosperity, Neighborhood Neglect: Chicago's Black and Latino Workers Left Behind," which describes how the city's downtown economic development program leaves out most black and Latino residents. Photo by Michelle Kanaar

Downtown job creation policies have significantly benefited white communities to the exclusion of the city’s black and Latino communities, according to a report released Tuesday by the Grassroots Collaborative, a coalition of Illinois community and labor organizations.

The report, “Downtown Prosperity, Neighborhood Neglect: Chicago’s Black and Latino Workers Left Behind,” found that while Chicago taxpayers subsidized job creation and re-location to the tune of more than $1.2 billion, only one out of four jobs created by downtown economic activity between 2002 and 2011 went to Chicago residents.

During that period, black-majority and Latino-majority city ZIP codes suffered a median loss of 620 and 381 downtown jobs per ZIP code, respectively. White-majority city ZIP codes gained a median of 509 downtown jobs. In one particularly stark comparison, Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood lost approximately 800 jobs while Naperville gained more than 800 downtown jobs.

“This isn’t a crisis of budget, it’s a crisis of priorities,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, at a press conference inside City Hall.

The report recommends investing TIF money from affluent downtown areas in blighted communities, requiring recipients of public subsidies to create jobs for Chicago residents, and implementing a commuter tax that would ease the burden on Chicago taxpayers.

The report precedes the Take Back Chicago town hall meeting at UIC Forum on Oct. 15, which the Grassroots Collaborative expects to draw several thousand people.

The next step is to unite labor unions with community organizations and set a “people’s agenda,” said Norine Gutekanst, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, which is part of the Grassroots Collaborative.

“It’s just criminal how there are parts of the city that are favored and others that are absolutely forgotten,” she said.

The Grassroots Collaborative comprises 11 organizations, including the Illinois Hunger Coalition and Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation, and receives support from the Crossroads Fund and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation. The Woods Fund of Chicago and Stand Up! Chicago funded the report.

Patel said that the mayor is invited to attend the town hall meeting, adding that he should listen to Chicago residents and not only CEOs and campaign contributors.

“Mayor Emanuel has shown a reluctance to listen directly to the voices of neighborhood residents,” she said. “If you don’t listen directly to the people who are affected, you can’t make policies that meet their needs.”

Matthew Luskin, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, attends a press conference held by the Grassroots Collaborative in City Hall on Tuesday morning. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

Matthew Luskin, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, attends a press conference held by the Grassroots Collaborative in City Hall on Tuesday morning. Photo by Michelle Kanaar.

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